Who says the old guys can’t rock still? The not always so happy Flo & Eddie have sent a tremor rolling through digital radio land recently, winning on summary judgment against Sirius XM Radio for broadcasting and streaming their music without permission. Flo & Eddie is a corporation owned by the two founding members of the music group The Turtles, best known for once crooning about the pleasure of their shared company (see above).
Flo & Eddie sued Sirius for the unauthorized (1) public performances and (2) reproduction of its sound records by broadcasting and streaming content to end consumers and operating its satellite and Internet radio services. After considering both arguments, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted Flo & Eddie’s motion for summary judgment for all claims pertaining to Sirius XM’s public performance, but not the reproduction claims.
This is an important case because it shows how the courts will treat copyright claims pertaining to pre-1972 works as their copyright protection periods expire, and the work falls into the public domain. The court ruling will likely bring more litigation from performers like The Turtles. Moreover, similar rulings may encourage SiriusXM, Pandora, and other similar companies to lobby Congress for new copyright laws covering pre-1972 music.
Though this is a decision in just one case, analysts have pointed out that the Turtles’ judgment provides important insight as to how courts might resolve unanswered questions about the pre-1972 copyrights and whether federal or state law holds sway, and there’s another closely watched case in the dockets involving similar arguments involving Capital Records and Pandora. It’s also unclear whether the judge’s ruling could be viewed as broad enough to affect not just digital radio but also good old AM-FM.